Orange County’s Future Tied to Route 17 Investments
John Jordan | September 2018
GOSHEN—The lifeline of Orange County and points further north has for some time been Route 17 as tourists and shoppers flock to such popular destinations as West Point and Woodbury Common Premium Outlets to name just a few.
With construction of the $500-million Legoland New York project in Goshen now underway with an opening planned in 2020 and perhaps other major resorts in the offing, (Great Wolf Resorts is considering a site in Orange County), the need to address present and future traffic problems on the roadway has taken center stage. Combine current and potential development in Orange County with the fact that further north in Sullivan County the new Resorts World Catskills casino has begun operations just off Route 17 in the Town of Thompson, the need for significant capital investment in the roadway is critical, local business and economic development officials maintain.
An initiative called the Route 17 Transportation and Traffic Alleviation Plan (TTAP) led by the Orange County Partnership, the Sullivan County Partnership and the Orange County Citizens Foundation was given a multi-million dollar boost recently by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Earlier this year, the governor included up top $5 million in the state’s 2018-2019 New York State Budget to advance environmental and design activities in connection with the construction of a third travel lane along the Route 17 corridor in Orange and Sullivan counties.
The funding was a huge victory for the coalition that has called for significant investment in Route 17 in order to facilitate the region’s unprecedented economic growth.
Back in 2013, a Route 17 Corridor study undertaken by NYSDOT recommended that a third general use lane be developed, along with other corridor enhancements, such as the addition of some park-and-ride facilities, and improved transit service on the Metro-North Port Jervis commuter line.
Unfortunately, the project commissioned by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer failed to gain traction due to a lack of financial resources and a unified voice in the region.
Shortly after its formation in 2017, the coalition retained former executive director of the New York State Thruway Authority and president of Strategic Public Affairs Michael Fleischer as its consultant to work with state officials on the pressing needs of Route 17.
The coalition has since brought on a host of other business, government, non-profit and labor stakeholders to garner support for the TTAP and to bring the capital investment needs of Route 17 to the “front burner” of state officials. The new funding advances the project to its next phase.
The New York State Department of Transportation is now engaged in a Planning and Environmental Linkage study that is estimated will take 12 to 14 months to complete, which the TTAP coalition believes will well-position the Route 17 work for inclusion in NYSDOT’s next capital plan scheduled for release in 2019.
The full cost of the project, including design, construction and inspection, could be approximately $500 million, the TTAP coalition stated.
“It’s a costly investment, but one that will ensure our future success,” said Orange County Partnership President and CEO Maureen Halahan. “The Orange and Sullivan County partnerships and the Orange County Citizen Foundation have already begun meeting with stakeholders across the Mid-Hudson region to develop an outreach plan to build upon our success and make these needed improvements to the Route 17 corridor a reality.”